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O.C. Arts Center Names Major Donor Its Chairman

Music: Paul F. Folino, a technology executive, is praised as a consensus- builder. The Costa Mesa facility had been rocked by a lawsuit among its board members.


After six weeks of turbulence touched off by a lawsuit among members of its board of directors, the Orange County Performing Arts Center has moved to regain its equilibrium by naming as its leader a top corporate arts donor.

The center's board unanimously voted Tuesday to make Paul F. Folino chairman designate, giving him three months to learn the volunteer job from current chairman Roger T. Kirwan.

Folino, who has led South Coast Repertory's board for the last two years and spearheaded the Costa Mesa theater's successful fund-raising drive, begins a three-year term July 16.

Folino, 57, is president and chief executive of Emulex Corp., a high-tech company based in Costa Mesa. The $10 million he gave to South Coast Repertory is the largest donation in the history of the Tony Award-winning theater.

And as president of South Coast's board of trustees, Folino has helped guide the theater's fund-raising campaign, which recently passed its goal of $40 million and is now aiming for $50 million. South Coast's expanded and renovated facility will be named the Folino Theatre Center when it opens in the fall.

David Emmes, South Coast's producing artistic director, on Wednesday described Folino as a consensus builder. "I think he will be a tremendous asset to the center at a time when they need it most."

The Orange County Performing Arts Center also is trying to expand, but its $200-million campaign to open a new symphony hall by fall 2005 has been stalled at $96 million for more than six months. Raising the remaining money will be the most important challenge of Folino's chairmanship.

"It's a great opportunity to help do something special ... an opportunity to create a legacy that will last for decades to come," Folino said Wednesday. Folino, who has donated $1 million to the center's expansion, was primed to join its board as a regular member. His entry as chairman is the result of a chain of events that began March 12, when news broke that two high-profile members of the center's board, Broadcom Corp. partners Henry Samueli and Henry T. Nicholas III, were being sued by a group of investors that included several center board members.

The suit stemmed from a stock investment gone sour, with plaintiffs alleging that Broadcom had inflated sales and earnings with improper accounting. It had nothing to do with the performing arts center, but had great repercussions. The Broadcom partners, who had given a combined $13.8 million to the center's expansion drive, resigned from the board.

They said that, although they would continue to support the center's work, they no longer could serve alongside people they felt were unjustly suing them for fraud.

Among the plaintiffs was Thomas T. Tierney, the center's chairman designate. On April 4, Tierney, a member of the center's board since 1986, announced he was stepping aside.

"I wanted the focus to be on building the center rather than making judgments about my motivations in pursuing legal action on a totally unrelated manner," Tierney said Wednesday.

Tierney, who remains on the center's 50-member board, said Folino is "absolutely the perfect one" to become chairman. Kirwan said he first approached other center board members about taking the job.

"A few" qualified candidates declined because of business and family commitments, he said, so he turned to Folino.

Jerry E. Mandel, who oversees day-to-day operations as the center's president, doesn't think the Broadcom lawsuit and its fallout have cost the center donations, but he acknowledged that they created "a kind of soap opera" that threatened to become a drag on the center's efforts. The ideal coda to the Broadcom issue, Mandel said, would be to quickly land some big donations signaling that the expansion drive remains on course: "We need a couple of solid gifts to say to the world we're moving on."

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